Published On: Thu, Nov 9th, 2017

NAf. 661,482 approved for January 8 elections in St. Maarten

MarlinPHILIPSBURG - The Council of Ministers on Tuesday approved NAf. 661,482 to organise the snap election that has been set for January 8, 2018.

Prime Minister William Marlin announced the approval of the funds during the weekly Council of Ministers press briefing on Wednesday, noting that the democracy of a nation comes with a price.

He said also that the challenges related to the elections such as those expressed by the Central Voting Bureau and Postal Services St. Maarten (PSS) etc, can and will be addressed. “Yes, there are challenges, and yes they are being worked on,” he told reporters.

Addressing the Central Voting Bureau and Postal Services St. Maarten (PSS) concerns about elections being held in January, Marlin said “where there is a will, there will be a way.” He linked the quote to the recent damaging of the House of Parliament following the hurricane leaving nowhere for the legislature to have its reopening session, but there was a will and a way was found and the meeting was held at the new Government Building.

Marlin met with Chairman of the Central Voting Bureau Jason Rogers as well as with the Head of the Department of Civil Registry and parties went over all the “challenges” with respect to elections. He asked the Census Office Head to prepare a plan of approach on how the challenges will be addressed.

He said several items relevant for the elections were damaged during the passage of Hurricane Irma when the container that stored the voting booths and the bins that the electorate uses to cast their ballots was blown away and the items damaged. This is not a reason to not hold elections, he said.

While suggestions had been made for the voting booths to be reordered, the Prime Minister believes that they can be made in a few hours right here in St. Maarten for the 15 polling stations. He said it is not difficult to construct a voting booth and use black curtains on them similar to the ones that had been destroyed, and indicated that even he can help build the booths.

Regarding the voting bins, instead of ordering these from abroad and not knowing when they will arrive in the country, Aruba, for example, can be asked to loan some of their voting bins to St. Maarten for the elections.

Regarding PSS, Marlin said while that building had been destroyed, the persons working there were not. He said for every election “a stock” of voting cards are undeliverable because the persons whom they are for cannot be found. He called for persons to adapt to current situation.

For the upcoming elections, he suggested that it would be practical for the undeliverable voting cards to be made available at the polling stations where the voter normally casts his or her ballot and the cards can be picked up there on election day. Extra persons can be hired for this process.

He said also that there were also some legal challenges in the process and stressed that changes needed to be made to the laws. He said also that while the Constitution makes provisions for normal elections and provides for snap elections, provisions are not in place to accommodate snap elections.

He alluded to one discrepancy in the electoral ordinance and the constitution, noting that while one says elections should be held 90 days following the dissolution of parliament, the other says three months, which he says can create a difference in several days depending on when Parliament is dissolved.

He also alluded to the issue of closing of the Voters Registry, which was also a concern raised by the Central Voting Bureau. The Voters Registry is to be closed 30 days prior to the nomination date (postulation date). Since nomination is November 13, the Voters Registry has already been closed.

As for Nomination Day, which should be on Monday, November 13, Marlin said in the past parties handed in their lists at the Department of Civil Registry (Census Office), but for the last elections they were done at the former Government Administration Building, which has since been destroyed. Marlin said while he is unaware of where the Central Voting Bureau has scheduled for nomination to be held, it would most probably be at the new Government Building.

Marlin said the dissolution of Parliament is a legal process and he said persons who are upset about elections being held now should direct their displeasure to the eight Members of Parliament (MP) whose actions resulted in elections being called. He said the “red, white and blue” coalition had been working in the interest of St. Maarten and had been doing many good things for the community. There was no reason, he said, to break up a proper functioning coalition.

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